Speech by Jeremy Corbyn on 29 September 2015
Friends, thank you so much for that incredible welcome and Rohit, thank you so much for that incredible welcome. Rohit, thank you so much for the way you introduced me and the way our family and you have contributed so much to our community. That was absolutely brilliant. Thank you very much.
I am truly delighted to be invited to make this speech today, because for the past two weeks, as you’ve probably known I’ve had a very easy, relaxing time. Hardly anything of any importance at all has happened to me.
You might have noticed in some of our newspapers they’ve taken a bit of an interest in me lately. Some of the things I’ve read are this. According to one headline “Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the prospect of an asteroid ‘wiping out’ humanity.”
Now, asteroids are pretty controversial. It’s not the kind of policy I’d want this party to adopt without a full debate in conference. So can we have the debate later in the week! Another newspaper went even further and printed a ‘mini-novel’ that predicted how life would look if I were Prime Minister. It’s pretty scary I have to tell you. It tells us football’s Premier League would collapse, which makes sense, because it’s quite difficult to see how all our brilliant top 20 teams in the Premiership would cope with playing after an asteroid had wiped out humanity. So that’s a no-no for sure!
And then the Daily Express informed readers that – I’m not quite sure how many greats there are here, but I think there are three or four - great-great-great grandfather, who I’d never heard of before was a very unpleasant sort of chap who apparently was involved in running a workhouse. I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time to have a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.
But then there’s another journalist who had obviously been hanging around my street a great deal, who quotes: “Neighbours often see him riding a Chairman Mao style bicycle.” Less thorough journalists might just have referred to it as just a ‘bicycle’, but no. So we have to conclude that whenever we see someone on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao. Thus, the Daily Express has changed history.
But seriously Conference it’s a huge honour and a privilege for me to speak to you today as Leader of the Labour Party. To welcome all our new members. More than 160,000 have joined the Labour party. And more than 50,000 have joined since the declaration of the leadership and deputy leadership election results.
I’m very proud to say that in my own constituency, our membership as of last night had just gone over 3,000 individual members and 2,000 registered supporters. 5,000 people in my constituency. I want to say first of all thank you to all of the people of my constituency of Islington North and Islington North Labour party for their friendship, support and all the activities we’ve done and all the help and support they’ve given me in the past few weeks. I’m truly grateful to you. Thank you very much indeed to everyone in Islington.
Above I want to welcome all our new members to this party, everyone who’s joined this party in this great endeavour. To change our party, change our country, change our politics and change the way we do things. Above all I want to speak to everyone in Britain about the tasks Labour has now turned to:
Opposing and fighting the Tory government and the huge damage it is doing.
Developing Labour’s alternative.
Renewing our policies so we can reach out across the country and win.
Starting next year.
In local government elections across Britain.
I want to repeat the thanks I gave after my election to all the people who have served the Labour Party so well in recent months and years. To Ed Miliband for the leadership he gave our party, and for the courage and dignity he showed in the face of tawdry media attacks. And also for the contribution I know he will be making in the future. Especially on the vital issues of the environment and climate change. Thank you Ed. Thank you so much for all you’ve done.
And to Harriet Harman not just for her leadership and service, but for her commitment and passion for equality and the rights of women. The way she has changed attitudes and law through her courage and determination. The Equality Act is one of many testaments to her huge achievements. Thank you, Harriet, for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do. I also want to say a big thank you to Iain McNicol, our General Secretary, and all our Party staff in London and Newcastle and all over the country for their dedication and hard work during the General Election and leadership election campaigns.
And also to all the staff and volunteers who are doing such a great job here this week in Brighton at this incredible conference we’re holding. Thank you to all of them. They’re part of our movement and part of our conference. Also I want to say a special thank you to the fellow candidates who contested the leadership election for this party.
And also to all the staff and volunteers who are doing such a great job here this week in Brighton at this incredible conference we’re holding. Thank you to all of them. They’re part of our movement and part of our conference. Also I want to say a special thank you to the fellow candidates who contested the leadership election for this party.It was an amazing three month experience for all of us.
I want to say thank you to Liz Kendall, for her passion, her independence, determination and her great personal friendship to me throughout the campaign. Liz, thank you so much for that and all you contribute to the party.
I want to say thank you to Yvette Cooper for the remarkable way in which she’s helped to change public attitudes towards the refugee crisis.
And now for leading a taskforce on how Britain and Europe can do more to respond to this crisis. Yvette, thank you for that.
And to Andy Burnham, our new Shadow Home Secretary, for everything he did as Health Secretary to defend our NHS – health service free at the point if use as a human right for all.
I want to say thank you to all three for the spirit and friendship with which they contested the election.
Thank you Liz.
Thank you Yvette.
Thank you Andy.
I want to thank all those who took part in that election, at hustings and rallies all across the country. Our Party at its best, democratic, inclusive and growing.
I’ve got new people to thank as well. The talented colleagues working with me in the Shadow Cabinet and on Labour’s front bench. An inclusive team from all political wings of our Party. From every part of our country. It gives us the right foundation for the open debate our Party must now have about the future. I am not leader who wants to impose leadership lines all the time. I don’t believe anyone of us has a monopoly on wisdom and ideas - we all have ideas and a vision of how things can be better. I want open debate in our party and our movement. I will listen to everyone.
I firmly believe leadership is about listening. We will reach out to our new members and supporters.
Involve people in our debates on policy and then our Party as a whole will decide. I’ve been given a huge mandate, by 59 per cent of the electorate who supported my campaign. I believe it is a mandate for change.
I want to explain how. First and foremost it’s a vote for change in the way we do politics. In the Labour Party and in the country. Politics that’s kinder, more inclusive. Bottom up, not top down. In every community and workplace, not just in Westminster. Real debate, not necessarily message discipline all the time. But above all, straight talking. Honest. That’s the politics we’re going to have in the future in this party and in this movement. And it was a vote for political change in our party as well.
Let me be clear under my leadership, and we discussed this yesterday in conference, Labour will be challenging austerity. It will be unapologetic about reforming our economy to challenge inequality and protect workers better. And internationally Labour will be a voice for engagement in partnership with those who share our values. Supporting the authority of international law and international institutions, not acting against them.
The global environment is in peril. We need to be part of an international movement to cut emissions and pollution. To combat the environmental danger to our planet. These are crucial issues. But I also want to add this. I’ve been standing up for human rights, challenging oppressive regimes for 30 years as a backbench MP. And before that as an individual activist, just like everyone else in this hall. Just because I’ve become the leader of this party, I’m not going to stop standing up on those issues or being that activist.
So for my first message to David Cameron, I say to him now a little message from our conference, I hope he’s listening – you never know: Intervene now personally with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is threatened with the death penalty, for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17. And while you’re about it, terminate that bid made by our Ministry of Justice’s to provide services for Saudi Arabia - which would be required to carry out the sentence that would be put down on Mohammed Ali al-Nimr.
We have to be very clear about what we stand for in human rights. A refusal to stand up is the kind of thing that really damages Britain’s standing in the world. I have huge admiration for human rights defenders all over the world. I’ve met hundreds of these very brave people during my lifetime working on international issues. I want to say a special mention to one group who’ve campaigned for the release of British resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay.
This was a campaign of ordinary people like you and me, standing on cold draughty streets, for many hours over many years. Together we secured this particular piece of justice. That’s how our human rights were won by ordinary people coming together. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things – that is how our rights and our human rights have been won. The Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act and some want leave the European convention on Human Rights.
Just to show what they’re made of, their new Trade Union Bill which we’re opposing very strongly in the House and the country, is also a fundamental attack on human rights and is in breach of both the ILO and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Now I’ve been listening to a lot of advice about how to do this job. There’s plenty of advice around, believe me. Actually I quite like that. I welcome that. I like to listen to advice, particularly the advice which is unwelcome. That is often the best advice you get. The people that tell you, “yes, you’re doing great, you’re brilliant, you’re wonderful”. Fine. Thank you, but what have I got wrong? “Oh, I haven’t got time for that.”
I want to listen to people. But I do like to do things differently as well. I’ve been told never to repeat your opponents’ lines in a political debate. But I want to tackle one thing head on. The Tories talk about economic and family security being at risk from us the Labour party, or perhaps even more particularly, from me. I say this to them. How dare these people talk about security for families and people in Britain? Where’s the security for families shuttled around the private rented sector on six month tenancies - with children endlessly having to change schools? Where’s the security for those tenants afraid to ask a landlord to fix a dangerous structure in their own homes because they might be evicted because they’ve gone to the local authority to seek the justice they’re entitled to?
Where’s the security for the carers struggling to support older family members as Tory local government cuts destroy social care and take away the help they need? Where’s the security for young people starting out on careers knowing they are locked out of any prospect of ever buying their own home by soaring house prices? Where’s the security for families driven away from their children’s schools, their community and family ties by these welfare cuts?
Where’s the security for the hundreds of thousands taking on self-employment with uncertain income, no sick pay, no Maternity Pay, no paid leave, no pension now facing the loss of the tax credits that keep them and their families afloat? And there’s no security for the 2.8 million households in Britain forced into debt by stagnating wages and the Tory record of the longest fall in living standards since records began. And that’s the nub of it. Tory economic failure. An economy that works for the few, not for the many. Manufacturing still in decline. Look at the Tory failure to intervene to support our steel industry as the Italian government has done.
So, as we did yesterday in conference, we stand with the people on Teesside fighting for their jobs, their industry and their community. The company has said that it will mothball the plant and lay the workers off, therefore it is not too late now, again, to call on the Prime Minister even at this late stage, this 12th hour, to step in and defend those people, like the Italian government has done. Why can’t the British government? What is wrong with them?
There’s an investment crisis. Britain at the bottom of the international league on investment.
Just below Madagascar and just above El Salvador. So we’re doing quite well! Britain’s balance of payment deficit £100 billion last year. Loading our economy and every one of us with unsustainable debt for the future. And the shocks in world markets this summer have shown what a dangerous and fragile state the world economy is in.
And how ill prepared the Tories have left us to face another crisis. It hasn’t been growing exports and a stronger manufacturing sector that have underpinned the feeble economic recovery. It’s house price inflation, asset inflation, more private debt. Unbalanced. Unsustainable. Dangerous. The real risk to economic and family security. To people who have had to stretch to take on mortgages.
To people who have only kept their families afloat through relying on their credit cards, and payday loans. Fearful of how they will cope with a rise in interest rates. It’s not acceptable.
The Tories’ austerity is the out-dated and failed approach of the past. So it’s for us, for Labour to develop our forward-looking alternative. That’s what John McDonnell started to do in his excellent speech to conference. At the heart of it is investing for the future.
Every mainstream economist will tell you that with interest rates so low now is the time for public investment in our infrastructure. Investment in council housing, and for affordable homes to rent and to buy. John Healey’s plan for 100,000 new council and housing association homes a year.
To tackle the housing crisis, drive down the spiralling housing benefit bill and so to make the taxpayer a profit. A profit for the taxpayer because the benefit bill falls when the cost of housing falls. It’s quite simple actually and quite a good idea. Investment in fast broadband to support new high technology jobs. A National Investment Bank to support investment in infrastructure.To provide finance to small and medium sized firms that our banks continue to starve of the money they need to grow. A Green New Deal investing in renewable energy and energy conservation to tackle the threat of climate change.
The Tories of course are selling off the Green Investment Bank. They are simply not interested in this. This is the only way to a strong economic future for Britain. That’s sustainable.
That turns round the terrible trade deficit. That supports high growth firms and businesses.
That provides real economic security for our people. The economy of the future depends on the investment we make today in infrastructure, skills, and schools.
I’m delighted that Lucy Powell is our new shadow Education Secretary. She has already set out how the education of every child and the quality of every school counts. Every school accountable to local government, not bringing back selection. We have aspirations for all children, not just a few.
Now my first public engagement as Labour leader came within an hour of being elected. I was proud to speak at the ‘Refugees Welcome’ rally in London. I wanted to send out a message of the kinder politics we are pursuing and a caring society we want to achieve.